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Coaches to observe Autism Awareness Day on Saturday

Jan 31, 2014, 1:04 PM EDT

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Saturday represents an important day in college basketball, and not solely because of some of the big games on the schedule. February 1 is also Autism Awareness Day in college basketball, with many coaches across the country donning lapel pins in support of the cause. The pins are in the shape of a puzzle piece, which represents the “missing piece” that children have have been diagnosed with autism lack.

Two coaches at the forefront in this campaign are Towson’s Pat Skerry and Marshall’s Tom Herrion, both of whom are the parents of autistic children. With the goal being to educate people about an issue that affects one in every 88 children (1 in every 54 boys), Skerry and Herrion reached out to many of their colleagues in the profession during the offseason.

“Coach Skerry and me were the ones to contact these coaches directly,” Herrion said in an interview conducted by Autism Speaks earlier this week. “There has been complete support across the board. Autism Speaks and college basketball will be together on this day. Pat and I have good programs but when we can get the rock stars of our industry on board, Coach K, Jim Boeheim, Coach Self, Calipari and all the others on board including the media you know you have something special.”

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Alex Prewitt wrote a story on Skerry and how he and his wife navigate the daily challenges that come with raising a child diagnosed with autism. The task can be even tougher for parents in states like Maryland, which according to the story is one of 16 states that doesn’t have health insurance coverage for autism.

And that fact, with many struggling with the financial aspects of raising a child with autism, is one thing that makes days like Saturday so important.

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